Learning dynamics explains human behaviour in Prisoner's Dilemma on networks Articles uri icon

publication date

  • February 2014


  • 11


  • 94

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1742-5689

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1742-5662


  • Cooperative behaviour lies at the very basis of human societies, yet its evolutionary origin remains a key unsolved puzzle. Whereas reciprocity or conditional cooperation is one of the most prominent mechanisms proposed to explain the emergence of cooperation in social dilemmas, recent experimental findings on networked Prisoner's Dilemma games suggest that conditional cooperation also depends on the previous action of the player-namely on the 'mood' in which the player is currently in. Roughly, a majority of people behave as conditional cooperators if they cooperated in the past, whereas they ignore the context and free ride with high probability if they did not. However, the ultimate origin of this behaviour represents a conundrum itself. Here, we aim specifically to provide an evolutionary explanation of moody conditional cooperation (MCC). To this end, we perform an extensive analysis of different evolutionary dynamics for players' behavioural traits-ranging from standard processes used in game theory based on pay-off comparison to others that include non-economic or social factors. Our results show that only a dynamic built upon reinforcement learning is able to give rise to evolutionarily stable MCC, and at the end to reproduce the human behaviours observed in the experiments.


  • Mathematics


  • evolutionary game theory; prisoner's dilemma; social networks; moody conditional cooperation; reinforcement learning